A record-breaking year for U.S. venture capital investment in 2021 did not break records in Orlando, but it came pretty close.

Ten metro Orlando companies got $68.9 million in investment in the fourth quarter, bringing Orlando’s 2021 startup investment total to $361.6 million, according to data from PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association released Jan. 14. Local companies raised a few million dollars less than the $378.4 million total from 2020, but 2021 still was the second-biggest year for metro Orlando venture capital investment since at least 2013.

Venture capital deals can be critical for early-stage companies and the community. It funds companies as they scale up while also providing business expertise and industry connections. The growth of these companies in turn creates high-wage jobs and innovative solutions for local businesses and residents.

Top deals

Here’s a look at Orlando’s investment deals of $5 million or greater in the fourth quarter:

  • Violet Defense Group Inc.: The Orlando-based ultraviolet light disinfection company closed a $20 million Series B round, the firm announced Nov. 4. The capital will enable Violet Defense to bolster its product offerings in both its disinfection technology and agricultural lighting divisions. Money raised by Violet Defense also was counted by PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association in their third-quarter report, but that was part of the Series B round.
  • Virtual Dining Concepts LLC: The Orlando-based ghost kitchen firm started by Planet Hollywood founder Robert Earle closed a $20 million Series A in October. The new funds will help the company develop new technology, beef up its corporate infrastructure and ramp up marketing and customer support.
  • Aqfer Inc.: Marketing data platform startup Aqfer closed an $11 million round in November, according to the report. The company’s website says its corporate headquarters is in Windermere, while its sales and marketing headquarters is in Manhattan.
  • CashRepublic Holdings Inc.: The Orlando-based fintech and check-cashing company raised at least $5.2 million in a Series A round, according to an Oct. 27 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The capital fuels CashRepublic as it opens new stores across Central Florida.
‘Unprecedented’ capital flowing into industry

Last year and 2020 are the only two years metro Orlando companies have raised more than $300 million combined in at least the last nine years. Orlando venture capital data from 2013-2021 is available from PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association.

Like in 2020, Orlando ranked second among Florida’s major metros for venture capital investment. Here’s how the Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville metros stacked up:

  • Miami: $3.9 billion
  • Tampa: $354.5 million
  • Jacksonville: $143.2 million

Across the U.S., companies raised $329.9 billion in 2021, nearly double the amount raised in the previous record year of 2020: $166.6 billion. Record amounts of capital are being pumped into the venture capital ecosystem, a trend that’s expected to fuel another big year in 2022, PitchBook founder and CEO John Gabbert said in a report released with the venture capital data.

“Venture capital dry powder is at an all-time high, and a rapidly growing number of crossover investors are participating in, or even leading, venture capital deals. With venture capital returns outpacing every other private capital asset class, we expect LP’s to continue to allocate capital toward venture at unprecedented rates in the coming year.”

John GabbertJohn Gabbert / Libby Greene